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Unions: Right-to-Work States vs. Non Right-to-Work States

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Unions: Right-to-Work States vs. Non Right-to-Work States

By JamieD
Published: May 4, 2010 Updated: February 18, 2011

Unions: Right-to-Work States vs. Non Right-to-Work States
Do you work in a right-to-work state? A better question may be whether or not you know what that actually means. Although state right-to-work laws affect small businesses throughout the country, many people still aren't sure what they are or how they are affected by them.
A right-to-work state has voluntarily decided to enact laws that require unionized workplaces to become "open-shops" by securing the right of employees to choose whether or not to join or financially support a union. To understand the background and progression of these laws, it is important to know the key forms of operation in union and non-union workplaces:

Closed Shop workplaces may require union membership as a condition of employment. Employees who do not comply with that condition, fail to pay union dues, or are removed from a union for any other reason are subjected to being fired. The National Labor Relations Act no longer allows the operation of these workplaces.
Union Shop workplaces require employees to join the union after an certain time period. Under the Union Shop rule, employees can be fired for failing to pay membership dues; however, mandatory firing of employees that have been removed from the union for any other reason is not allowed.
Open Shop workplaces allow employees the right to work regardless of their affiliation with a union. Employees cannot be forced to join a union or pay equivalent dues to a union.


Under the original coverage of the NLRA, unions and employers covered by the act could legally agree to operate as a closed shop. After time, the enactment of the Labor Management Relations Act, also know as the Taft-Hartley Act, prohibited the operation of closed shops and instead allowed for the operation of union shops. This act also included provisions that allowed for states to enact right-to-work laws. Right-to-work laws enable states to require the operation of open shops. Today, the National Labor Relations Actnow outlines employee rights to organize and collectively bargain with employers through representatives of their choosing.
Note: Not all employers and employees are covered by the National Labor Relations Act. For more information on who is not covered, check out this guide from the National Labor Relations Board.
Currently, states are considered either a "right-to-work" state or a "non right-to-work" state.

There are 22 right-to-work states as well as the territory of Guam:
Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wyoming


Be sure to check your state's labor office for more information on its specific right-to-work laws and provisions.
While small business has generally been a large supporter or right-to-work laws, there remains a significant debate surrounding this legislation. Congress is currently considering legislation that would repeal several current provisions to eliminate mandatory unionism in all states. The National Right to Work Act would prohibit unions from firing employees for refusing to pay union fees. Proponents of the Act argue that they do not weaken the power of a union but rather enhance the power of individuals by enabling them to bargain on their own behalf. Opponents claim that these laws are misleading because they do not guarantee any employee rights to work, and instead weaken the power of unions and subsequently reduce job security.


Additional Resources


Message Edited by JamieD on 09-14-2009 12:21 PM

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